There are but a handful of games that exist today that allow one to actually try their hand at creativity, and usually when one such game does exist it’s in the form of level creation. Scribblenauts is a title for the DS developed by 5th Cell that tries to use creativity as an emphasis for gameplay by allowing players to take virtually any object they can think of, and use it as a tool.
Scribblenauts has been lauded critically since it was shown at the E3 earlier this year, with it’s exceptionally large library of words at the player’s disposal and creative ways to utilize this large lexicon to accomplish several dozen tasks in numerous ways. This large vocabulary of items is without a doubt Scribblenaut’s most defining feature.
You can spend hours trying out new words and still not get anywhere near to finding out half of what’s usable in the game, and more often than not find a word that works rather than one that doesn’t. Ranging from the obvious items to complete a level, like a rope or ladder, to internet memes, like rickroll or longcat. Toying with the game’s words in and of itself is extremely entertaining.
The game’s 220 unique levels give you much to do with the game’s collection of items. The main goal of each level is vaguely described at the beginning of each level, how you accomplish this is up to you. In a puzzle level it largely varies from taking one person from point to another without them getting hurt, or to just getting some person or animal the proper item. The action levels focus more on getting to the level’s end by whatever means you concoct.
The levels are rather varied and enjoyable. The puzzle levels seem to be the stronger of the two, with the emphasis on completing a level through more creative means without the solution being immediately evident like the action levels. A sense of repetition does tend to pop up once in a while with the move-item-from-point-a-to-point-b levels, but in large the levels are quite enjoyable.
The primary issue with figuring how to accomplish these tasks is that they’re only as great as your imagination. If you can’t think of anything, then you might end up just finishing the level or any similar levels the same way for 220 levels. The game rewards creativity, but ultimately the game can just make you feel as creative as a wheel due to frustration from failing with trying to be creative, which creates some repetition through using more simple means to finish a level.
The touch screen is used for almost everything, including moving Maxwell, your character. This becomes an issue when you’re trying to attach something to another object and might not be able to move your character without failing. If you slightly mess up touching the item then Maxwell runs across the map ruining your set up. A little more insight into the controls could fix this issue. This can create some frustration, but ultimately don’t ruin the game’s experience.
Scribblenauts is an insanely creative title, that is folly to its own creativity. While a great puzzle game due to the number of items it has, the player’s own choices can either make this game a wildly inventive title, or just have the potential to be creative. The tendency to drop back into the obvious and simple solutions can destroy the game’s variety. Scribblenauts depends very much on the player striving to be clever to make a great experience. Despite this, the title is still enjoyable and somewhat awe inspiring due to it’s developer’s dedication.